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FFNI Consortium Awards Fibrus £23million Contract to Deliver Next Generation Connectivity

DCMS Project Director, Billy McClean, Fibrus Chief Executive Dominic Kearns and Deputy Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Christine McFlynn
DCMS Project Director, Billy McClean, Fibrus Chief Executive Dominic Kearns and Deputy Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Christine McFlynn

Leading telecoms provider, Fibrus has been awarded a major multi-million pound contract to deliver critical digital infrastructure on behalf of the Full Fibre Northern Ireland Consortium (FFNI). Valued at over £23million, successful completion of the contract will see over 900 public-sector buildings connected to a hyperfast broadband service across Northern Ireland.

The FFNI Consortium, which is made up of ten councils outside Belfast and the Business Services Organisation (BSO), is led by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. The project aims to expand the high-speed fibre broadband footprint in Northern Ireland having secured funding from the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) through the Local Full Fibre Network and Rural Gigabit Connectivity programmes.

Following the award of the contract, full fibre ‘gigabit capable’ broadband is now being installed in public sector buildings, such as Council buildings, community centres, fire stations, GP surgeries and health clinics across Northern Ireland.

The aim of the project is to improve digital transformation across partners and use these public sector hubs to stimulate the acceleration and wider roll-out of faster, more reliable broadband to nearby residential and commercial properties through separate commercial investment plans.  

Improved connectivity became vitally important during the current COVID-19 pandemic, which made online, remote and digital access a necessity.

UK Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said:

“This broadband boost for Belfast shows our plan to build back better is delivering for people and businesses, and I am thrilled to announce we will allocate £24 million to replicate its success in every region in Northern Ireland.

“The upgrades will push down the throttle on internet speeds at thousands of homes, businesses and public buildings, and thanks to our £1 billion deal with mobile operators, people will have access to fast and reliable connectivity on the move too.”

Fibrus Chief Executive, Dominic Kearns explained the significance of the contract. He said:

“We are delighted to have been awarded this significant contract by FFNI. The objectives of this programme directly align with ours extending full fibre infrastructure into as many areas of NI as possible.

“Delivering this critical infrastructure to all these council and public-sector buildings allows us to extend the network further into the surrounding homes and businesses that are in much need of our services.

“At Fibrus we are committed to playing our part in delivering the policy objective of achieving ubiquitous full fibre coverage as set out by the Government and this project will help bring that one step closer.

Speaking at the official launch of the contract Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Cllr Cathy Mason, added:

“This project really demonstrates the value of collaboration across public sector organisations. Full Fibre will supercharge our digital capacity and help deliver the best possible services to businesses and residents across district.

“The investment from DCMS will also unlock considerable economic value across the North of Ireland whilst making it easier for suppliers to provide full fibre to nearby businesses and residential properties, so the positive impact will be even more far reaching once complete.”

Deputy Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Christine McFlynn said:

“Mid Ulster has consistently been one of two regions in Northern Ireland which suffers from the poorest access to broadband and never has the need for quality connectivity been more apparent than through the course of the last year when so many people relied on broadband for work and business, school and education, as well as social interaction.

“Ensuring hyperfast broadband is available in Mid Ulster has been a strategic priority for us for some considerable time and so, the significance of this project in terms of investment, scale and reach cannot be underestimated.

“I look forward to the implementation and to Mid Ulster residents enjoying the benefits of greatly enhanced broadband access’.

Work to complete the new full fibre network for public sector sites is expected to be completed with minimal disruption by December 2021. 

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Importance of Improved Digital Connectivity Cannot be Overstated

(L-R) Economy Minister Gordon Lyons, Griana Fox, Fibre Ambassador and Fibrus Networks’ Hyperfast NI Programme and Commercial Director, Shane Haslem.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has visited Killyleagh as hundreds of homes and businesses in the area go live with access to next generation access broadband speeds under Project Stratum.

Project Stratum represents a £150million investment by the UK government, allocated to the Department for the Economy as part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement, alongside £15million by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs with further investment by the contractor, Fibrus Networks Ltd.

Department for the Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “Killyleagh is the latest town to go live as a result of Project Stratum, the £165 million infrastructure project which will bring Next Generation Access broadband to over 76,000 premises across Northern Ireland. This investment in our broadband infrastructure is set to transform the broadband connectivity landscape here. Hyperfast NI, delivered by Fibrus Networks Ltd, have now completed work they began earlier in the year in the Strangford area, including towns such as Killyleagh, Killinchy and Newtownards. This announcement sees over 640 premises in the area, previously identified as being without quality coverage, with access to hyperfast broadband speeds. As a result people and businesses are already seeing the benefits of improved connectivity.

“The importance of improved digital connectivity cannot be overstated. It can mean better access to online services for businesses and members of the public alike. An improved online presence can help businesses to sell their goods, promote their services and in the case of our local tourism providers help them to attract visitors and people to the area. 

Pictured in Killyleagh are (L-R) Economy Minister Gordon Lyons and Fibrus Networks’ Hyperfast NI Programme and Commercial Director, Shane Haslem

“This is the latest announcement by Fibrus, with extensive work across South Down and other towns in Mid Ulster and the North Coast already completed and I look forward to tracking progress as more and more premises go live across Northern Ireland.”

Fibrus Networks’ Hyperfast NI Programme and Commercial Director, Shane Haslem added: “Providing rural communities like Killyleagh with proper connectivity opportunities and access to quality broadband is at the heart of what we do. For too long, rural and regional areas have gone without adequate broadband infrastructure, despite being a hub for local businesses, start-ups and support services.

“When the pandemic hit, we were urged to ‘Stay at Home’ and confined to working, learning and entertaining ourselves from home. This unsurprisingly increased the demand for online and digital usage, meaning broadband quickly became like any other utility. To modern homes and businesses, it is now as essential as your electricity and heating.

“We are delighted that Killyleagh and other parts of the Strangford area have now joined the Rural Revolution, as our full fibre network goes live. We will continue to address the imbalance in rural connectivity across Northern Ireland and we look forward to seeing more communities enjoying the benefits of our transformative full fibre network.”

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Allstate NI Offers Cyber Safety Training for Older Adults

Allstate NI is offering free cyber safety training sessions to protect older consumers from online scams.

The interactive sessions, which cover everything from fraud and identity protection to email and telephone scams, will help those over 60 navigate the internet with confidence.

The community initiative comes after it was revealed that over £6 million was lost to scams in Northern Ireland in 2020.

The virtual sessions will cover general cybersecurity awareness, fraud, identity theft, and email and telephone scams and will equip attendees with the tools to protect their passwords and privacy settings.

Technologists at Allstate developed the initiative following the success of its Cyber Safety for Kids scheme, a training programme that has reached over 11,000 children globally since launching in Northern Ireland in 2018.

Like the award-winning kids programme, the training for older adults will be delivered across Northern Ireland, the U.S and India to protect as many people as possible.

Senior Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer at Allstate Jeff Wright said:

“Cybercrime is on the rise and hackers are getting smarter. There is no doubt that all of us are at risk, however older members of society are a growing target for cybercriminals. That’s why we are reaching out to local communities and offering free, online training sessions to ensure more people have the knowledge and awareness to stop cybercrime in its tracks.”

Vice President and Deputy Chief Information Security Officer at Allstate NI Keith Lippert said:

“COVID-19 forced everyone online and more people are using the internet for tasks that require sharing sensitive information. In these sessions, Allstate cybersecurity professionals will talk about the most common scams and how to avoid falling victim to them. Individuals are encouraged to ask questions and get tips that will best protect them and their assets.”

Superintendent Gerard Pollock, Police Service of Northern Ireland said:

“I welcome any initiatives which advise and educate people on how they can avoid falling victim to scams and encourage anyone who has been a victim to report it to police on the non-emergency telephone number 101.”

Virtual sessions are available throughout the summer:

  • Tuesday, July 27, 10-11 a.m. GMT
  • Thursday, August 5, 12-1 p.m. GMT
  • Tuesday August 24, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. GMT

Click here to sign up for the training sessions. To learn more about group bookings, email allstatecybersafety@allstate.com.

For further advice and information relating to scams, visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni.

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